Bears

Bears aiming to diffuse Washington's explosive DeSean Jackson

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Bears aiming to diffuse Washington's explosive DeSean Jackson

With memories of Torrey Smith’s game-winning 71-yard touchdown still fresh, the Bears began preparations for the Washington Redskins on Wednesday needing to figure out how to diffuse a similarly explosive target. 
 
Washington’s DeSean Jackson may only have 18 catches for 292 yards this year, but the 29-year-old had receptions of 42, 56 and 63 yards in consecutive November games and caught a game-tying 28-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night (Washington went on to lose on a last-second field goal). He presents a similar test to the one provided by Smith, which the Bears’ secondary spectacularly failed Sunday at Soldier Field.
 
“You just gotta be sound in your coverage, sound in your technique and your eyes and not have any lapses when you’re lined up against (speed guys),” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “And if you do have any against those guys, they’ll make us pay the same way Torrey Smith did.”
 
The way to mute Jackson, Porter explained, doesn’t begin and end with pressing and re-routing him off the line of scrimmage. It most of all takes proper technique, since without it, Jackson is able to blow past defensive back and deliver the kind of big-chunk plays on which he’s built his eight-year NFL career. 
 
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“The guy’s extremely fast,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “And unlike a lot of guys that are extremely fast, he’s fast in a hurry. His first few steps, he gets into high gear quicker than anybody.”
 
It’s not just Fangio and the Bears’ secondary that has to be worried about Jackson, though. The Bears’ punt coverage team has to be prepared for Jackson to get loose, as he tried — in an egregiously disastrous fashion  — to do against Dallas. From near the 25-yard line on the far sideline, Jackson tried to cut back to the near sideline, ran all the way to the precipice of the Washington goal line, then fumbled just before 10-yard line. The Cowboys quickly converted that fumble into their only touchdown on Monday night. 
 
While Jackson hasn’t returned a punt for a touchdown since 2010, the last one he housed won’t be forgotten anytime soon. His walk-off punt return touchdown against the New York Giants on Dec. 19, 2010 helped push the Philadelphia Eagles into the playoffs and is regarded as one of the best plays in NFL history. 
 
Count Bears special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers as someone who has that monumental return in the front of his mind this week. 
 
“You get plenty of respect from special teams coaches because we all remember those type of plays,” Rodgers said. He then pointed to former Kansas City Chiefs returner Dante Hall, who had a penchant for turning the kind of return attempted by Jackson against Dallas into a touchdown. 
 
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“There’s a lot of returns, you’re watching him saying, ‘you gotta be kidding me — oh, good, good, yeah, touchdown,’” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of things that returners have an innate ability to have big plays and covering that kind of thing, as long as your guys are disciplined, you think that you got a chance but a guy with his speed, the longer the play goes, the more likely it is that he’s going to be able to get to the edge and that’s something that I believe he was trying to do. It think Dallas did a good job covering that thing. He’s an explosive guy and you certainly gotta be aware that he’s back there.”
 
But given it’s been five years since Jackson scored on a punt return, the onus will be on the Bears’ secondary to keep the ball out of the explosive Washington receiver’s hands on Sunday.
 
“DeSean anytime can make a play for us,” Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “You never know when it’s going to happen based on play calls and coverages and that kind of thing, but he’s always ready and able. We gotta get him involved, we’ve done a good job of getting him opportunities the last few weeks and he’s made good on them. 
 
“He’s a difference-maker for us, a talented player and we just gotta keep finding ways to get him the football and get him chances to go make plays.” 

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.